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A matter of manners and behaviour



by Peggy Carr
Taipei, Taiwan

Yet another democratic nation – Malawi — has chosen to break diplomatic relations with Taiwan in favour of China. As has been the case with other countries, Malawi continued until the last minute to assure Taiwan that there was no truth to the reports that it intended to switch sides. {{more}}

However, when Taiwan’s Foreign Minister James Huang attempted to visit Malawi less than two weeks ago to discuss matters of diplomacy, he was snubbed by the African country’s government, which claimed that its officials were all too busy to meet with him. As the snub came while Huang was en route to Malawi, he was forced to revise his plans and he flew instead to Swaziland, which was scheduled to be the second stop on his trip to Africa.

It is one thing for a democratic nation to break ties with Taiwan in favour of a communist state, it is quite another to be persuaded to be rude and deceptive in process. Diplomatic ties between Taiwan and Malawi had been in place for 41 years. That at least should have contributed to a more civil approach by Malawi.

China has been known to time its heaviest diplomatic attacks on Taiwan to coincide with prominent events, such as elections and the inauguration of top officials. The fact that China is able to use its growing economic clout to persuade other nations to support its agenda and to be downright insulting to Taiwan does not reflect well on countries that call themselves democracies. It also does not say much for the state of ethics and courtesy in the diplomatic arena.

Taiwan has just held nationwide legislative elections that were won overwhelmingly by the main opposition party. In a country of 23 million people, the elections were held without any notable incidents of violence. In the run up to the elections, all of the political parties involved had unrestricted access to the press, to public venues and to the airwaves to campaign for their candidates. Freedom, democracy and the rule of law are very obviously alive and well in the country.

Yet, for all the lip service that they pay to the sanctity of freedom and the value of democracy, country after country continues to abandon Taiwan in favour of a repressive communist regime that has one of the worst human-rights records in the region.

Could it be that, after all, “freedom and democracy” is nothing more than a catch phrase to be bandied about when it’s expedient to do? Could it be that some nations have nothing more substantial to teach their younger generations than to bow to the mighty dollar?

We, the Vincentians living in Taiwan, are proud that our country continues to buck this trend. We are pleased that we can hold our heads high among our peers here and say that despite our country’s small size and population it has not compromised its values for a handout. Our government’s firm stance on the Taiwan issue continues to set it apart in a world where all too often foreign policy is just another name for economic expediency.